Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Castillo imposes curfew in Lima (April 5, 2022)

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo imposed a curfew in Lima today, banning people from leaving their homes all day in an attempt to curb protests against rising fuel and fertilizer costs that have spread throughout the country. (La República)

The move generated widespread anger, and risks undermining the government's authority, according to La República.

Yesterday a wave of protests against rising fuel and fertilizer prices, triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, continued into their second week, reports Reuters. The protests have become increasingly violent and at least four people have been killed, the government said.

Peru's government deployed members of the armed forces to spots around the country yesterday, in an effort to quell the unrest, reports Bloomberg.

Over the weekend, Peru's government announced it would remove a fuel tax. However, protests continued on Monday, with truckers and passenger carrier drivers demonstrating on the streets in Lima and some regions in the north. (AFP) Castillo also approved by decree a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage in response to the protests. (Bloomberg


El Salvador's crackdown on gangs continues, evidence of arbitrary detentions

Almost 6,000 people were arrested in El Salvador over the past week, part of an unprecedented security crackdown by the government against the country's street gangs. President Nayib Bukele has said that the detainees are all gang members and that they will not be released. But there is mounting evidence that ordinary people who live or work in gang-dominated neighbourhoods have been arrested arbitrarily, reports the Guardian. (See last Wednesday's post.)

An emergency decree passed on March 27 by El Salvador's Bukele-dominated National Assembly allows detainees to be held for 15 days – rather than the usual three – without access to a defence attorney and without prosecutors having to make a case in front of a judge. The decree, which also allows police to search cellphones and messages, could be extended.

And despite the wide scope of the new emergency powers, reports suggest that other constitutional rights are also being violated. Bukele and government authorities have pushed the message that they were imposing harsh conditions on gang members inside prisons as punishment for the murder spree that claimed more than 80 lives in late March. "The government published photos from the prisons showing mattresses being removed from crowded cells with prisoners forced to lay on concrete floors, or prisoners stripped to shorts chicken-walking before heavily armed and masked guards in prison yards," writes Tim Muth in El Salvador Perspectives.

Such broad and swift enactment of powers granted to the military and police has drawn alarm from local and international human rights organizations, reports AFP.

"Mano Dura policies are often popular and Bukele’s approach to tackling the security crisis may prove popular in the short run. However, this is not a strategy that will provide lasting benefits to the country, nor to Bukele’s popularity," according to the Latin America Risk Report.

News Briefs

Costa Rica
  • Costa Rican president-elect Rodrigo Chaves promised to rework a $1.78 billion financial support package from the International Monetary Fund, arguing the current agreement was "not ambitious enough." Chaves, a former World Bank economist, said the deal struck with the IMF last year for Costa Rica was "indispensable," reports Reuters

  • "Chaves’ victory is a win for views that embrace social exclusion. It was also a rejection of traditional political parties," argues Eugenia Aguirre, researcher at the University of Costa Rica in today's Latin America Advisor. "Deep down, Chaves’ rhetoric was based on anti-politics. His main challenges begin at the political level, first, rebuilding bridges with social sectors and different political groups after a highly confrontational campaign." (See yesterday's post.)

  • While media reports portray Chaves as "market-friendly," it's not very clear that his government will be, according to the Latin America Risk Report. "The new president will now face a Congressional system where he must negotiate with a broad range of other parties that have little incentive to help the new president succeed."
  • In response to pressure from the U.S. Biden administration, Mexico imposed a visa requirement this year that makes it extremely difficult for most Venezuelans—in particular, those of a lower socioeconomic status—to legally migrate to and through the country, reports Kristen Martinez-Gugerli at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.
Regional Relations
  • While many of the U.S. "Biden administration’s policies in Latin America – particularly toward Cuba, Venezuela, and China’s activities – remain largely the same as during the Trump era, some of its actions and statements suggest more nuanced approaches on other regional issues," writes Fulton Armstrong at the Aula Blog, pointing to the U.S. government's support for a renegotiation between the IMF and Argentina on a debt deal, and Vice President Kamala Harris's strong support to Honduran President Xiomara Castro. These and other factors suggest that the U.S. government is aware "of how deeper cooperation with the region could simultaneously promote both U.S. and Latin American interests."

  • Chilean President Gabriel Boric maintains that human rights violations must be denounced, regardless of the ideology of the government committing them -- but questioned the bias behind those who only ask him for his opinion regarding allegedly leftist authoritarian governments. “How come the media only ask me about Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua and don’t ask me about human rights violations, for example, in our country, in Chile, or murders of social leaders in Colombia?” he asked rhetorically. (EFE)

  • Boric, visiting Buenos Aires yesterday, and Argentine President Alberto Fernández promised to cooperate on economic, energy and cultural issues. (Reuters, see yesterday's briefs.)
  • Chileans’ support for both their new president and the institution rewriting the constitution is fading fast, according to a new Cadem poll: 46 percent of citizens said they would reject the charter based on the information currently available, up ten percentage points from the prior week. By contrast, 40 percent said they would back the document. It was the first Cadem poll showing more people intending to vote against rather than for the new constitution, reports Bloomberg.
  • Hundreds of indigenous people began gathering in Brasilia yesterday for a 10-day protest camp to defend their land rights and oppose a bill backed by President Jair Bolsonaro that would allow mining and oil exploration on their reservations. (Reuters)

  • More than 200,000 victims of Brazil’s worst environmental disaster -- including representatives of Krenak indigenous communities -- are seeking compensation in a UK court this week. The lawsuit against BHP seeking compensation for the devastation caused by the Mariana dam disaster in November 2015 is one of the largest group claims in English legal history, reports the Guardian.
  • Mexico's PRI party will vote against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's nationalist electricity bill, drastically reducing chances for the constitutional reform to pass, report Bloomberg. The legislation would require that 54% of electricity be generated by the state-owned power utility, reducing the participation of private companies in the market.
  • Four civilians, including an Indigenous governor and a teenager, were among 11 people the Colombian army killed in what it said was a military operation against suspected guerrillas involved in drugs trafficking, human rights groups said last week. (AFP)
  • Former Colombian soldier Mario Palacios pleaded not guilty to charges by U.S. prosecutors that he conspired to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States in connection with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, reports Reuters.
  • Ecuador, the world's largest banana exporter, has been hard hit by the war in Ukraine: banana sales to Russia are worth $698 million a year to Ecuador. But due to international transport sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia is not receiving its cargos of bananas and Ecuador's producers have been hard hit. (AFP)
  • Prominent artists are returning to stages in Venezuela this year after leaving it out of tours for years -- but with ticket prices ranging from $55 to upward of $600, the events are symbols of great inequality in an impoverished nation, reports the Associated Press.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...

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